Replace that “N” with a “B”

For the past several nights I’ve been cursing NBC. Sweet J, who is a gymnast and an Olympics gymnastics enthusiast, has been staying up way too late watching tv. We were kind of stuck: we don’t get cable at all, so we couldn’t stream online, and of course NBC wouldn’t squander this ratings-grabbing sport on daytime. I tried the BBC and Canadian TV, but I couldn’t get the videos running because I’m not, you know, British or Canadian.

I started getting bitter early, actually. An ex-pat friend in Britain gushed about the opening ceremonies, so I was irritated when they parts were cut or mocked. The commentators pattered in the same old stupid and inane way that they always do, but I’m out of practice with tolerating it. Cute W and I shut off the morning tv shows about 15 years ago, and these days we just don’t watch any of that network tv/infotainment stuff at all.

By the following evening, poor J was fighting to stay awake during the swimming events to watch more gymnastics, and I was working myself into a snit, trolling #nbcfail on Twitter, snickering at the tape-delay jokes and getting morally outraged that they skipped the opening ceremony tribute to victims of terrorism in favor of a Ryan Seacrest interview.  Last night J and M were fast asleep on couches, it was 11:15 pm, and I just couldn’t stay awake any longer. Something had to change.

Enter my new favorite bear, TunnelBear.  It’s a program that makes it look like you’re in Great Britain, and it’s very, very easy to do. Download and run, and then a cute little old-fashioned radio-looking thing shows up on your screen. Switch it to  “On” and “UK” and you’re in business! It’s free for a little while (and free twice as long if you Tweet about it), and it’s $4.99/month if you want to use it for more than a little while. We coughed up the $4.99.

It was totally worth it. Now I can go to this comprehensive BBC schedule and watch things live or later. So right now, the girls and I are watching the gymnastics team finals. Okay, I’m a goofball, because I spaced it earlier and forgot to catch it live like I’d planned. But even on delay, the coverage is much better. Or in my opinion it is. I’ve spent some time watching both, and here’s my quick comparison:


  • Switches back and forth between gymnastics and other sports repeatedly
  • Focuses almost entirely on the American team
  • Has a lot of commercials
  • Offers a lot of commentary that focuses on mistakes
  • Spends a lot of time talking about people in the audience (although that clip of Aly Raisman’s parents had Cute W and I roaring with laughter, and the #nbcfail chatterers were snarky about it, but if you’ve ever been a parent watching powerlessly as your child performs, it’s easy to empathize, I think)
  • Doesn’t explain much about what’s going on

BBC online:

  • You watch exactly what you click
  • You see gymnasts from all different countries, with a bit of an emphasis on the Brits (of course) and the Americans (because they rock)
  • No commercials during video replay
  • Commentary is not 100% awesome, but there’s a lot more positivity–they focus more on what’s done well, which I appreciate
  • Haven’t seen anyone in the stands, although they do sometimes linger on the gymnasts awaiting scores or limbering up instead of straight performances
  • Gives a better general idea of what’s happening at the meet–we got to see all the gymnasts introduced, we find out at each rotation who’s going on which equipment, and there are better score updates

All in all, it’s just much better. Once in a while the streaming pauses, but it’s not for long, and it’s a sliver of a fraction of the time wasted on commercials on network tv. In fact, we were about 20 minutes into watching the program on the computer when J asked, “What would we be seeing if we were watching the tv again?” I turned it on to check, and it was mid-commercial, followed by swimming.

I don’t know if any of the rest of you are struggling with this, but I highly recommend going rogue and ditching NBC. Anyone else trying to beat the system?




  1. Judy K

    Thanks for the tip! I was just telling my husband how uneventful many of the events seem when you already know who wins (or doesn’t) and the events took place hours ago.

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